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Friday, January 25, 2008

Spotlight on Sharon Souza and Every Good and Perfect Gift

Today is another day for a debut author. It's so much fun spotlighting first-timers as I'll be joining their ranks in just a month. So many new authors, so many great books, and I get the honor of introducing them to you. What a treat!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sharon Souza and her husband Rick have been married 36 years. They live in northern California, and have three children and 6 grandchildren. Rick travels the world building churches, Bible schools and orphanages. Sharon travels with him on occasion, but while Rick lives the adventure, Sharon is more than happy to create her own through fiction.

EVERY GOOD AND PERFECT GIFT
by Sharon Souza
Published by NavPress

BUY YOUR COPY TODAY

ABOUT THE BOOK

After thirty close years, Gabby and DeeDee's lifelong friendship holds no surprises. Except for one: Thirty-eight-year-old DeeDee and her husband have decided to conceive their first child. And despite their concerns and a struggle with infertility, DeeDee finally gives birth to a healthy baby. But while the friends believe they have faced their greatest challenge, an unexpected tragedy will alter their lives and relationship forever.

In the classic tradition of movies such as Beaches and Steel Magnolias, Every Good and Perfect Gift shares a heartwarming story of friendship that overcomes all odds. Filled with laughter, tears, and everything in between, Gabby and DeeDee's journey will strike a chord with female readers of all ages.

From the Back Cover

"I'm not the strong one. I've never been the strong one."

So believes Gabby Whitaker in her friendship with DeeDee McAllister. They've been best friends since sixth grade, when headstrong and courageous DeeDee began mapping out their lives. But after twenty years with her husband, DeeDee changes the plan. Nearing forty years old, she wants a baby--now! Two years of infertility, prayers, and outrageous behavior finally result in the birth of DeeDee's demand.

Gabby is present for all of it, noting the increasingly strange behavior of her lifelong friend after the baby's birth. Then comes a diagnosis that threatens to shatter their world. Now Gabby must find the strength and faith to carry DeeDee and herself through the dark unknown, but is she up for it?

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?

After I graduated from high school I moved with my family from the town I'd grown up in -- away from the friends I'd had since grammar school, then within a little over a year I was married. Other than for a brief period in my mid-twenties, I didn't have a close friend until I was well into my thirties. There were some lonely times during those years when I longed for a close female friend. But I was very quiet, very shy, and wasn't the type to reach out, regardless of how desperate I was.

Eventually I went to work in the Christian high school located at our church, and within time, the Lord gave me two very close friends, Janice and Caroline, who also worked in the high school. The really neat thing is that the three of us were very close, as were our husbands, and, for the most part, even our children. I truly saw them as a gift from God, and appreciated the years we had together. Little by little I inched out of my shell, and it became easier to make friends -- though I'm still a very private person.

One of the friends I made later was the inspiration behind Every Good & Perfect Gift. This is not Evie's biography by any means, but the purpose of the story was to address an issue that arose in her life. She was diagnosed with a life-changing illness at the age of 42 and I decided to write a story that dealt with that illness. I chose to do it through the eyes of a best friend, rather than a spouse or other family member, maybe because we were such close friends at the time of the diagnosis.

I wanted to write a book about a "Jonathan and David" type friendship between two women, knowing that I was ultimately going to tell the story of a young woman who is diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer's. I have a close friend who, at the age of 42, began to exhibit many of the symptoms portrayed in the book. Since completing the book I've learned that another close friend has been diagnosed with EOA. What are the odds?

In determining what course the friendship between Gabby and DeeDee would take, I asked myself: What is the greatest way one woman can express friendship to another? The answer: By helping her have a child if she's unable to, which one character is willing to do if it comes to that.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced the characters of DeeDee or Gabby? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?

It's funny because neither DeeDee nor Gabby is Evie or me. Okay, I can hear my husband and daughters laughing as they read this. "You're exactly like Gabby," is what they're saying, and in some ways that's true. But I was not the pattern for Gabby. She and DeeDee emerged looking remarkably like my daughters, Mindy and Deanne, and they both know exactly which character they are. Truly, it's what endeared those characters to me so much.

As far as traits that were "theirs and theirs alone," they quickly became so real to me that I didn't have to think about what they'd say or do -- it was just obvious. DeeDee was going to be obnoxious out of the gate every time -- only to redeem herself because there's so much goodness inside her. I wouldn't mind having a little bit of DeeDee in me.

3. What themes exist in Every Good and Perfect Gift that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

Of course, the main theme is the thing we've been talking about: friendship. This story talks about the value and the cost. Another would be how fleeting the appeal of this life can be. Colossians 8:2 says, "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." The events of life have a way of helping us do just that. Sickness, divorce, loss of a loved one, and other calamaties loosen our grip on this world and make us hungry for the next. My husband and I lost our son as I was in the midst of final edits on Gift. That's given our family a connection to Heaven like nothing else has ever done. We're thankful for all the Lord has given us, and we try to make the most of every day, but things of this earth pale in comparison to what awaits.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

This story really was a labor of love, so my favorite part to write was the whole story. In all honesty and candor -- and since it's just us I'll be candid -- the most difficult part came when I realized I had to rewrite the story from its original version and intent if I hoped to find a home for it in CBA, which is exactly what I wanted. The day I sat down to begin the story -- and I can recall the moment vividly -- I asked myself . . . okay, I think I need to back up a bit before I tell you what I asked myself.

My husband Rick went to high school with Evie and her husband Jon, then years later Rick and I ended up in the same church with them and the four of us became good friends. Once a year, whether they needed to or not, Rick and Jon got together to watch the maxi-series "Lonesome Dove" from start to finish. Evie and I would laugh at the guys, play cards, shop, come back and fix dinner, and laugh some more at the guys who were glued to the TV. A year or so after Evie became ill, I ended up watching "Lonesome Dove" with a solo Rick -- purely out of pity, and busily engaged in counted cross stitch -- and fell in love with the movie. Now, Rick and I watch it every year whether we need to or not. The thing I loved about the story, besides the interaction between Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones' characters, was the lengths to which Captain Call went to honor his friendship with Augustus McCrae.

So, knowing I was about to embark on a story about a strong friendship between two women, the question I asked myself was this: "What is the greatest way one woman could express her friendship with another woman?" The answer that immediately came to mind was, "Help her have a child if she's unable to." So infertility became the story line, with the life-changing illness looming large on the horizon. This book was originally about egg donation, and how one woman who chose not to have children became the surrogate mother for a child she helped create when her best friend became too ill to care for the child.

Except that, the idea seemed too controversial for CBA. An editor I respect failed to get it through committee and ultimately suggested I write out the egg donation part of the story, which, of course, was the main storyline. It was a difficult decision to make, but eventually, that's the route I chose to go.

So, that was the most difficult part of writing Gift. Oh, and having to change the name of one of the main characters to something other than what it had been for, oh, let's see, ten years.

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

My next book, Lying on Sunday, also from NavPress, will be released Sept. 1, '08. It's about Abigail Torrington, a happily married woman who, three days before her two daughters are leaving for college, gets a phone call saying her husband, Trey, has died in a San Diego hospital. Only Trey is supposed to be in Dallas.

This is the story of one woman's journey back from betrayal, on a road pitted with one crazy pothole after another.

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Thanks, Sharon, for being in the spotlight with us.

Readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE copy of Every Good and Perfect Gift. If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post. Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname dot.com/net) or that it's available for viewing in your blogger profile. Wouldn't want you to miss out on winning a book. :)

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

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3 comments:

sue h. said...

wonderful interview and it sounds like a terrific book. Please enter me for the drawing.

gbgnative@yahoo.com

Kim said...

This is wonderful! Please enter me in the drawing!

Kim
kimfurd at hotmail dot com

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Wow! Only 2 entries for this one. How odd. Wonder if folks missed this one somehow. Oh well, better chances for you two, Kim and Sue.

And the winner this week is:

SUE H.

Congratulations. I've emailed you for your mailing address so Sharon can mail out your book. Thanks for posting.

Come back next week for 2 more spotlights.